Improving the User Experience in Mobile Forms

By Natalie Cheng | Oct 09, 2016

With more than 1 million apps in the App Store, mobile app developers definitely have competition. It can be difficult to get users, but a key feature that distinguishes a successful app from an average app is a good user experience. Depending on the app’s function, the user experience will vary. Some apps may just be designed for entertainment while others are used to improve business processes. According to a recent report on enterprise mobility, in terms of investing in mobile, “the main benefit sought by 67% of respondents is improved business processes”.

One thing that can slow down a business is dealing with paper forms. Because of this, businesses can benefit by moving from paper forms to mobile apps. Since companies need to make sure that people are filling out forms correctly, the user experience is crucial for forms in mobile apps.

Why is user experience so important?

User experience is important because it is the element that will keep users engaged, reduce errors, and direct users to complete forms correctly. Mobile app developers and designers need to keep users in mind when creating an app in order for the app to be successful. Mobile apps can be well designed, but can ultimately fail if you don’t keep the user in mind. You need to make sure that the app is geared toward the person or need that it is supposed to fill.

For paper forms, if a mobile app can improve the boring experience, people are more likely to be motivated to complete the forms. People tend to skip questions and write random notes on paper forms, but mobile forms help people get through filling them out correctly. At ChaiOne, we try to present users with questions that need answers and help them follow through. We help users answer the questions the right way and just get it done so they won’t have to go back through the form again.

Things To Consider When Creating a Mobile Form

Design

When designing a form, you need to consider the following:

  • The layout of the form

  • Purpose of the form

  • How often the form is used

  • What environment the form will be used in (office versus the field)

  • Who the user will be

  • What device will be used? On an iPad? Mobile phone?

  • What are the safety requirements? Will the user need a safety case?

  • Will the user use a stylus or will he or she be touching the app with their fingers?

You need to make sure that the form is extremely easy to navigate throughout the different sections. In addition, depending on the user’s environment, you will need to adjust the contrast of colors in the app because it can look different on a device when someone is outside versus being inside. Also, in terms of environment, you need to find out if users will be wearing gloves or not because that will affect the user experience. Safety regulations need to be kept in mind as well. By collecting information from user interviews, you’ll be able to create a better form. You can learn about what should be improved and from that, you can make wireframes around their answers.

Another thing to keep in mind is the industry. You’ll need to tailor the form on the mobile app specifically to the industry it will serve. For example, if you’re making a form for inspections, you need to capture every part of the form and not change any of the language in it. Also, keep in mind any compliance issues and consider if the form will be exported as an excel or word file. You need to make sure that the layout is correct for this.

Development

In terms of developing a form for a mobile device, you need to consider the following:

  • Understand any logic or types of entry the form requires

  • Break down the problem into different mechanisms in the best way possible

  • If there are multiple forms, make sure that they are modular and displayed easily

  • Maintain the forms and make sure that they can be dynamic or change with very little disruption

  • See if the design is landscape or portrait and what other constraints apply – make sure that the design works with what you’re trying to implement

  • You can be limited with the libraries and frameworks that are available so you need to make sure that the client understands that he or she has to be flexible and cooperative

Challenges of Creating Mobile Forms

In terms of design, the layout is one of the biggest challenges. For example, is the form a checklist? Does it use free type? How are users going to free type if they are wearing gloves for work? Are they going to use a stylus? How easy can we make filling out this form and still keep a good user experience? How will users view the form?

For development, determining how to create certain parts of the app can be difficult. You have to figure out caveats or roadblocks and consider what you can and cannot do. Be aware of red flags because certain types of formats may not work on all forms. Another challenge that developers face is having to tell someone no. If a client or designer wants something in particular, it may be problematic and may not be possible. Nobody wants to hear “no” so you have to think of ways to express this and need to have alternatives. Besides saying no, a challenge can be the form itself – it can be big and complex even though a client says the form is very easy. Some forms contain various algorithms and even calculus which adds extra time to development.

Tips on Improving Usability in Forms

Make sure to do user interviews and user testing when you’re creating a form for a mobile app. Also, remember to always keep users in mind. In addition, experience really helps so try to get as much as you can. Recognizing the problem and the solution definitely helps in creating a mobile app for forms. Keep in mind that sometimes the solution won’t be what the client wanted. If user testing or research shows that the solution should be something else, then the form may turn out to be completely different than the first version that was proposed. Remember to stay flexible and be able to pivot. Also, test all methods to make sure that they work correctly because it’s important that the type of input is correct in forms. Last, but not least, be patient. Some companies have used the same forms for a very long time so they can be boring and all of them might look the same. Even though it can be boring at times, trying to find a solution makes developing an app for a mobile form interesting. Remember to stay motivated because seeing users engaged with a mobile app and an improvement in efficiency is the best part of creating the app.
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